Our Top Twitter Tips are 4 years old today, and to celebrate, we've completely re-written and revised them for 2015. The previous tips were viewed over 30,000 times before we took them down. We hope that many more will find the new version just as useful!
How can Twitter enhance the impact of your research?
Twitter is one of the most powerful social media platforms for academics, given the number of highly focussed and influential networks of people who use it. Effective use of Twitter doesn't just amplify your research, it enables conversations to take place about it. This can enrich your research and enable you to make a far greater impact:
You can use Twitter to get feedback on new research ideas, so that you can reframe them to be more relevant to the people who might use your findings
You can get insights into the way that likely users of your research are talking about the topics you're working on - the kind of language they're using and the sorts of things they're most interested in. These sorts of insights can be invaluable when you need to start communicating your findings
You can be the first to find out about news and events related to your research, and you can link your own work to what's happening, making it more likely that your work is picked up and debated
An increasing number of researchers are finding out about funding via Twitter. You can also identify collaborators for grant proposals, who already trust to be a good team member through your online interactions with them. You can find out about funding that you might not have come across through your institution, especially linked to industry, which can help generate impacts from research
As we've blogged recently, more and more researchers are using Twitter to crowd-fund parts of their research. The benefits of additional funding are often dwarfed by the power of an effective crowd-funding campaign to reach out to new audiences about your research.
Why aren't you seeing these benefits?
So how do you get all these great impacts social media? Perhaps you've been on Twitter for months or even years now, and you've still got a small and very slow-growing following, which doesn't give you any of these benefits? If that's the case, then you've probably not been using Twitter strategically for impact. That's why we created these top tips.
We've drawn these tips from our experience managing three Twitter accounts in particular:
@fasttrackimpact - our own Twitter account, which arose from the knowledge exchange research we conducted in a UK Research Council funded project that concluded in 2012 (formerly @SustainLearning)
@IUCNpeat - a Twitter account which arose from the science side of the same research project. The IUCN's UK Peatland Programme pursued the legacy of the project and rather than starting its own Twitter account, given the overlap in audience, we re-branded @reluuplands as @IUCNpeat in 2015
@seed_ball - a Twitter account for a product that arose from another research project, and grew into a global business supporting four staff within 2 years, marketed solely via Twitter.
Our Top Twitter Tips for Research Impact
Tweet yourself, your projects and your institution
In addition to your personal Twitter profile, consider opening accounts for some of your research groups or projects. Each of your research projects is likely to have a different focus, and you’re probably a member of more than one group or institution in your University that doesn’t have a Twitter account. A project Twitter account is an easy addition to your next “Pathways to Impact” statement when you’re applying for funding, and some sort of engagement with social media is increasingly expected by reviewers.
Opening an institutional account will usually need to be a group decision. If everyone agrees, others can either send you material to tweet or you can give everyone the Twitter username and password to tweet themselves (if so, you’ll need to agree on the nature of material you want posted, or it may be easier to decide on the things you want to avoid).
Open accounts for major research projects that will be going for a few years, and that you hope will have some form of successor project in future (so you’ve got time to build a following and don’t have too many accounts to manage). Again, the burden doesn’t have to be entirely yours – it can be delegated to a post-doc and shared with other team members. Other ideas you might want to consider:
Link to your Twitter feed from your project/institution homepage, and include the link in newsletters, presentations and consider putting it in your email signature
Every time you do a conference/workshop/seminar presentation, put your slides online (e.g. using SlideShare) and tweet them
Every time you get a paper published, tweet the link to the article on the publisher’s website (if it’s not open access, consider adding that you can send copies if need be). If you can get permission, upload a copy on ResearchGate or similar and tweet the link
Tweet quotes from speakers at conferences you attend, using the conference hashtag (make one up if there isn’t one), to connect with other delegates and make them aware of your work
Set up Science Direct (or something similar) and Google News and Google Scholar alerts for key words and authors that are particularly relevant to your work, so you can be the first to let your followers know about new developments linked to your shared interests
When you’ve got a tweet that’s of much wider, general interest, you can re-tweet it from your other project/institutional accounts, to reach a much larger audience than you could ever command from your personal account or one project
Next time you’re revising your website, why not consider adding buttons to enable readers to share what they’re reading via Twitter and other social media platforms?
Don’t just wait for people to find you: actively promote your Twitter stream
There are some easy things you can do to promote your twitter stream, like including links on your homepage, project websites and in your email signature. But more active promotion of your Twitter feed can attract many more followers:
Make sure you’ve got an effective biography (consider including some popular and relevant hastags in it if possible) and enough really informative/useful (typically with a link to more information) tweets in your stream before actively marketing what you’re doing
Contact relevant people with large follo